Why We Ride: Team Penn GynOnc (GO) Discover
“Ellen is an inspiration to me and all of my colleagues at the OCRC, and I’m honored to ride among Abramson Cancer Center patients, faculty, staff, and supporters as we share a common goal to eradicate cancer. Beating gynecologic cancers in particular takes more than just research and patient care—spreading awareness is also incredibly important, as early detection is key. That's why I ride."
- Ronny Drapkin, MD, PhD; Team Captain, Penn GynOnc (GO) Discover
Ellen Fitzgibbon was a dedicated veterinarian, avid traveler, and talented photographer when she was diagnosed with Stage IIIC ovarian cancer in 2014 at the age of 45. She underwent treatment at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, enduring multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and clinical trials. As Ellen bravely battled the disease, photography became her source of passion and inspiration. Shooting, editing, and sharing photos of the beautiful places she explored gave her a fulfilling project to engage her creative spirit.
While in treatment, Ellen established Shooting for a Cure, a philanthropic effort to educate women about ovarian cancer and provide funds to Penn’s Ovarian Cancer Research Center to support early detection research. Her photographs can be printed in the size and format of your choice, with the funds from the purchase championing this worthy cause. Check out Ellen’s incredible work here.
In an effort to eradicate this disease, Ellen put energy into more than one philanthropic conquest by also joining Penn Medicine’s Breakthrough Bike Challenge. Ellen and her sister, Anne Fitzgibbon, joined other patients and families at the 2017 event. "Participating in last year’s ride was important to Ellen," Anne reflected. "Not only did she love cycling through the beautiful countryside, but being part of a warm and positive team that was as committed as she was to defeating cancer made her feel supported and reminded her that she wasn’t alone."
After a year of remission, Ellen’s cancer recurred—and sadly, she lost her fight this year. Ovarian cancer has a troublingly high fatality rate due to a lack of early symptoms, making the disease difficult to catch in its earliest stages when it is most treatable. It is her family's hope that shining a light on ovarian cancer changes these statistics—particularly by making women aware their annual pap smear does not screen for ovarian cancer. They also wish to increase awareness around ovarian cancer’s subtle symptoms, and the factors that put women at risk—such as early breast cancer and endometriosis.
Ronny Drapkin, MD, Director of Penn’s Ovarian Cancer Research Center, is captain of the Penn Gyn Onc (GO) Discover Team. “Ellen is an inspiration to me and all of my colleagues at the OCRC, and I’m honored to ride among Abramson Cancer Center patients, faculty, staff, and supporters as we share a common goal to eradicate cancer. Beating gynecologic cancers in particular takes more than just research and patient care—spreading awareness is also incredibly important, as early detection is key. That's why I ride,” shared Dr. Drapkin.
Ellen’s family is continuing Ellen's philanthropic legacy through Shooting for a Cure and participating in other community fundraising events. Ellen's sister, Kate Callihan, expressed how her family's philanthropic involvement gives them hope: "It’s powerful seeing so many others—either battling ovarian cancer or honoring a loved one—and knowing that we’re all together in our commitment to raising awareness and finding a cure.”